What a real void I feel now that February has come and gone!
I tried to get to as many Black History programs as possible during the one short month that is saturated with such programs.
I watched a lot more television than usual and stayed up later than usual to catch every show that I could.
You might even say I overdosed on Black History and I’m still recuperating.
One of the best documentaries I watched was entitled More Than a Month by Shukree Hassan Tilghman, a film student at Columbia University.
His narration fluctuated between intellectually serious and satirically funny when he posted himself on sidewalks around the country with a sandwich sign asking people to sign a petition for or against the continuation of Black History Month.
Showing clips of various scholars, sociologists, educators and celebrities — including Morgan Freeman, who asked a journalist if he wanted his white history relegated to one month — Tilghman sought the opinions of a wide variety of people, including the general public.
Most people laughed when he suggested that they probably learned about the same historical figures — Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, Harriet Tubman, George Washington Carver — year after year after year.
Is this the best we can do in the 21st century?
Is this what Carter G. Woodson envisioned when he began Black History Week back in 1926?
I watched an old interview of Woodson, considered the father of Black History, at Emory University, where his works are archived. He mentioned that one day he hoped a special week or month would not be necessary.
It was simply a stepping stone towards filling a gap in our nation’s history, one too important to continue being left out of our schools and universities especially. If Black History is truly American History, a refrain shared by many, then why isn’t it mainstreamed into our curricula? Having one special month, Tilghman suggests, makes it seem like black Americans don’t matter outside of February.
This young filmmaker was actually astonished by the number of signatures he obtained to keep Black History Month.
He thought maybe its need had run its course, but students at a predominantly white university said it empowered them. Marketing and advertising professionals said it was a time to make money while sharing information on the contributions of black Americans.
A Harvard professor said that it was a time to counter balance the dominant story told from a Euro-centric perspective.
Other educators said if Black History was not mandated in February, it would disappear from many classrooms altogether, that it is a special time for blacks to stand up and be counted, for our contributions to be recognized.
In Philadelphia, the only U.S. city that has made an African-American History course a high school graduation requirement, a white teacher said that there needs to be special recognition, because African-Americans are the only group whose ancestors were forcibly brought to the Americas.
Inspired by Tilghman and out of my own curiosity, I decided to conduct a survey at Atlantic-Cape Community College.
Most of the students I interviewed said they learned “a little” Black History during their K-12 school years.
Outside of February, they said they learned “some.” Most students said they learned “a little” at home, a place of worship, community center or the like.
Most non-black students said, “Yes, Black History Month programs changed negative perceptions of blacks.”
About half of the non-black students interviewed said, “Getting to know some black person/people personally changed my negative perceptions.”
Most students answered “yes” or “somewhat” to the following question:
Once you learned that black Americans were the only group brought to this country forcibly, enslaved for centuries and deliberately and legally discriminated against, did your overall perception of them change?
Most immigrant students answered “yes,” that being at Atlantic-Cape or being in this country changed their perceptions of black Americans as a whole.
I think Shukree Tilghman and I arrived at a similar conclusion: the issue is not about keeping or getting rid of Black History Month, but rather transcending Black History Month. He advises, “How we form and re-form the American story says a lot about who we are today. We must be passionate about that reality.”
To that end, we both found numerous programs that had been carried over into March or April, his mother’s included, because of his documentary.
Carter G. Woodson reminded all of us that this journey is about power and equality for all Americans. Tilghman reminded us that it’s about claiming our rightful place in our nation’s history, which says to me, “Keep the month, but make sure Black History is included in American History as well.”
The Atlantic City Free Public Library and Richard Stockton College of New Jersey are offering several programs in celebration of February as Black History Month.
If the mayor does run again, she will play a major role in campaigning, because she enjoys urging people to get-out-the-vote, making them feel a part of something special and taking ownership.
We didn’t use the term “food desert,” but we knew exactly what consumer advocates meant when they declared our city one. Food deserts are communities where residents have little to no access to fresh fruits and vegetables. Sometimes fresh meats and dairy products are also included.
“Three months to hurry and nine months to worry” was the slogan for locals who looked forward to having work and making as much money as possible during this short period.
When are we going to hear more talk about the many efforts available to help parents, teen and otherwise, deal with their own lack of parenting skills, feelings of inadequacy, hopelessness, depression and outdated employability skills?
With the current focus on non-gaming, family-friendly and cultural attractions in Atlantic City's future, here are some of the reasons why Ralph Hunter and the AAHMSNJ should have a home in Atlantic City:
ATLANTIC CITY — Watching so many TV shows and attending local programs during Black History Month makes African-Americans feel extremely proud of all the obstacles we’ve overcome and achievements we’ve accomplished. I exhaust myself trying to attend as many programs as possible, but inevitably, I end up wondering whether or not reparations are still in order: reparations, from the root “repair” meaning “to make amends, to put right, to put into good or sound condition after damage or the effects of wear and tear.” If someone steals 10 dollars from me and apologizes, that’s really nice and I appreciate it, but that still may not repair my relationship with this person, and I still may think of her as a thief. If someone steals 10 dollars from me, apologizes and gives my 10 dollars back to me, this will more likely help us to have a decent relationship in the future. In July 2009, our U.S. House of Representatives issued an apology to Black Americans for the institution of slavery and the subsequent Jim Crow laws. Some of us probably felt all warm and fuzzy for all of 30 seconds and then, life went on as usual. Some of us...
"For blocks and blocks, I would hear no other language spoken but Spanish. Then, there would be blocks and blocks where occupants spoke a different language at every house: French, Wolof, a Haitian patois, Ghujurati, Arabic, Bengali. One house would have a Virgin Mary statue in the front yard and next to it, there’d be a house with verses from the Qur’an on its front door."
"By the 1950s, Wash and Sons’ Seafood Restaurant was a full-service place seating more than 100. Among our guests were celebrities, like Redd Foxx, Sammy Davis Jr., Nipsey Russell, Moms Mabley and Count Basie, who were featured at nightclubs on Kentucky Avenue."
Black History, Jazz and Poetry